I am a golf referee since many years and the rule that is the most difficult to apply is the lost ball when a penalty area is nearby. This rule is the most affected on how the golf course is marked.
I a few weeks I will give more details but this week I want to talk to you about a ruling I gave at the Players championship at the beautiful Le Portage Golf Course last week. This tournament had the best pros in Quebec, talented Ontario golfers and a few amateurs.
On hole # 17, the players second shot was somewhere near the 17th green but the player did not find his ball.
We have a lake in front of the green (Yellow stakes). On the back and on de side of the green we have a few ditches (Red stakes). The grass around the green is short, no leaves are on the ground and all the trees are included in the Red penalty areas.
Is the ball in one of the penalty areas, if it is the case, the player has a few options near the green or is it lost outside the penalty area and the player must go back to the area of the previous stroke?
THE RULE (17.1d)
If a player’s ball is in a penalty area, including when it is known or virtually certain to be in the penalty area even though not found, the player has these relief options….. under rule 17.
The two other players are saying that the player must find his ball in order to use Rule 17. I have to decide on the facts, and I must ask the following question: CAN THE BALL BE LOST ELSWHERE THAN IN THE PENALTY AREA?
Because the grass was short, no leaves on the ground, the ground was hard and dry at least 50 yards past the ditches, the trees were in the penalty areas, I gave the benefice of the doubt to the player that his ball was lost in the penalty area. He could drop a ball near the green.
We don’t always need to find the ball in the Penalty area and we don’t always have to see the ball enter the penalty area to use Rule 17.